President Donald Trump thanked Turkey on Saturday for freeing U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson after two years in custody and said it would help improve strained relations, but he denied cutting a deal with Ankara.
"I don't make deals for hostages. There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!" Trump wrote in a tweet.
Trump specifically thanked President Tayyip Erdogan "for his help", drawing a curt response from the Turkish leader, who has repeatedly said it was a court's decision to make, not his.
"Dear Mr. President, as I always pointed out, the Turkish judiciary reached its decision independently," Erdogan wrote on his Twitter account. "I hope that the United States and Turkey will continue their cooperation as the allies that they are, and fight together against terrorist groups."
Brunson, who had been under house arrest since July, was flown out of Turkey on Friday. Trump was scheduled to meet him at the White House later on Saturday.
Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained by U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey's plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the U.S. jailing of an executive at a Turkish state bank in an Iran sanctions-busting case.